Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Had the distinct feeling today that I CAN'T DO IT ALL, and then had a beer and promptly took a nap. It happens sometimes, though rarely. (Not the beer-drinking. The naps.) I am not a napper, and prefer to waste my time as a busybody; ever-working, accomplishing nothing. Somehow it all intersects with why I have never mastered a trade, or stored up money in the bank. Perhaps if I napped more, the world would make fresh sense, and novel words and ideas would stream out of me.

Like it does with the Little Ditchman, who is working on her third book at age 5-and-three-quarters. She followed up her debut masterpiece, My Dinosaur Journal with the delightful and informative My Scientific Fairy Research, both wonderfully thought-out and masterfully executed. She does it in her off-kindergarten hours, but it should be noted that she gave up the afternoon naps several years ago, and seems to be able to muster the creative wherewithal to pull these things off without the extra sleep, so I guess I can't use that as an excuse.

She is learning how to write, and hasn't exactly mastered it, but doesn't let that stop her from writing books. She tells me what she wants to write, and then I spell it back to her, word by word, in a sort of eccentric reverse-dictation. It is a tedious act for the both of us, but that's writing.

As with my own writing, I can only go a page or so before I lose all interest, unfortunately, so she fills the time illustrating the dead space. When she gets done with a page, she'll wander around looking for me, calling me to spell out "hand" or "then" or "ankylosaurus". She's getting smart about it, too. Recently, when she noticed me becoming annoyed by the exercise, she just went back and read what she'd written so far and then used those words as a guide. Seems simple enough. I should try it.

Mrs. Ditchman has read to her at bedtime just about every night of her little life, and that tiresome end-of-the-day anchor we've been dragging seems to have finally made purchase. After just a few months of Kindergarten, she was able to read her first sentence in a book on her own. I was there when it happened. She read it out loud, she heard herself say it, and then her eyes lit up and she began to laugh. It was like the sun had come out in the middle of the night, and sang to her.

Reading and writing has liberated her, as it does all nascent civilizations. Pretty soon we were reverse-dictating very precise letters to Santa about her innermost desires. As well, it so happens that Mommy recently found a note that the kid had scrawled out one morning and stuffed in her backpack. It read sweetly: Joey is my best friend. From Serena. And it had a nice hand-drawn picture of her, a little heart, and, I presume, this Joey. I don't know this Joey from Adam, but according to the illustration he wears glasses. So I guess she likes the smart boys.

Oh, the heartbreak! How I thought she was mine, mine alone and mine forever! But such is life. If I felt I was finally losing her, I was not alone. Mrs. Ditchman found another note the other day. Evoking Hemingway, it read pointedly and succinctly: No Boys. No Mom. I laughed, but the mom was displeased. We believe she had intended to tape it to her door, because, hey, kindergarteners need their solitude to conduct their genius. When I asked the kid about the note, she didn't deny it. Yes, she needed her privacy, she said, and I wasn't going to fight her on something like an artist's need for privacy. But she added, "It doesn't mean you, Dad... I would have written that."

You see, we writers are very specific. And we understand each other.